Boston Condo Buyers Are Changing Their Preferred Locations. This is Why

David Bates / April 13, 2017-12:05 pm

boston-suburbs 640

There’s a subtle tug of war that goes on in the Boston condominium market. It’s hardly talked about, but it’s always present.

At one end of the rope are homes with enviable locations. Pulling hard on the other end are bigger, shinier residences in less established areas.

It’s an age-old predicament for Boston homebuyers: live in the very best location or live in the home with the very best features and finishes. Far too often, they are not the same home.

Do buyers want the condo with the convenient location or the one with the in-unit laundry? The condo with easy access to the T or the one with central air conditioning? Do they want the new kitchen and new baths in a new location or the older kitchen and older baths in older locations? Often, this is how the Hub value equation plays out. For some looking to purchase condos in this coming spring, these are some of the questions that must be resolved before they can truly buy.

IMG_2026Sometimes, buyers are forced to make their own trade-off decisions. Other times, the market makes the decisions for them. This happens when prices appreciate so fast that the would-be condo buyers get priced out of their preferred neighborhoods and are forced to consider living in the next market over: a market where they typically get more of everything except their dream location.

Some buyers wanted to live in a Back Bay brownstone, but ended up buying in a downtown developer’s high rise.

Others wanted Somerville, but are now pursuing Medford.

More than one will tell you that they started the search in JP, but ended up buying in Roslindale.

These are just a few examples, but in Boston, changing the geographic focus of the search happens all the time. Simply put: when matched against what buyers get for the money, gotta-have neighborhoods can sometimes fall like dominos. And in doing so, they spur non-descript, never-before-considered locations to become red-hot.

To see this phenomenon in action, check out Redfin’s recently compiled list of the hottest neighborhoods in Greater Boston. The top 10 include neighborhoods in Malden, Everett, and even Lynn. How hot would those neighborhoods be if you could get the same values in Cambridge, Somerville, and Charlestown? Why are they so hot now? Because they are winning the real estate tug of war – that’s why!

In hot markets, up-and-coming locales with their gut-rehabs, ground-up construction, and great comparative value seem to be the stronger competitor in this real estate tug of war.

But in more tepid markets, when real estate risks seem greater, old and reliable locations have the leverage. Their finishes may not dazzle, but their blue-chip addresses offer a more predictable quality of life — as well as more probable financial security.

So, what’s it going to be for Hub condo buyers in 2017: live in luxury or maybe just live in a luxurious location?